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Winderman: Lose a free agent? You should get another draft pick.

Jan 13, 2011, 4:16 PM EDT

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Among counterproposals offered recently by the National Basketball Players Association during collective-bargaining negotiations were various means to make it easier to facilitate trades.

That, of course, is the type of item you put on the table as a means to eventually remove it when it comes down to cash concerns.

But last summer, and this season, are showing there does have to be a fundamental change when it comes to devastating personnel losses, and it has nothing to do with trades.

The sense of loss that Cleveland, Toronto and Phoenix had in common last summer is one all three teams currently also have in common. They are going nowhere, and they desperately need help.

That is why the NBA needs to adopt a compensatory system similar to what football and baseball offer in the wake of the loss of free agents.

The NBA’s rebuke might be that free-agent losses of players such as LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire often are followed up by agreements that result in salary-cap trade exceptions. The problem there is a trade exception requires a trade partner. It is not a quick-fix solution, nothing a team can execute on its own.

No, just like other sports, the NBA needs to assign some sort of metric value on free agents and attach an ensuing draft value.

The problem is the NBA Draft generally is not a deep pool, one that only includes two rounds.

The answer is to slot teams that lose prime free agents in after the lottery teams. For teams such as the Cavaliers, Raptors and Suns, it essentially would allow them to double-dip in the range of the lottery, or provide some sort of trade chip in the devastating wake of a major free-agent loss.

At least that way, teams would have the option of taking a compensatory post-lottery pick or working out a sign-and-trade deal for a trade exception.

From there, line up teams that lost what we’ll call Class A free agents in inverse order of finish right after the lottery teams. For a successful team such as Utah, which lost Carlos Boozer, tweak the rule so that if you lose a Class A free agent but make the playoffs, there is no compensatory pick.

The NBA already has a degree of discretion when it comes to the draft, having vacated first-round selections, with Minnesota’s dalliance with Joe Smith the prime example.

No, it’s not going to get any better any time soon for the Cavaliers, Raptors or Suns.

The least the NBA could offer is a token of sympathy for their heartfelt losses.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at

  1. goforthanddie - Jan 13, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    One problem:
    “tweak the rule so that if you lose a Class A free agent but make the playoffs, there is no compensatory pick.”
    That means fringe teams would have yet another reason to throw games, esp. if they have an FA they know won’t be back.

  2. petermcd88 - Jan 13, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    Here is what it would look like based on standings today ( top to bottom,left to right):
    Cleveland Detroit Philadelphia Toronto
    Sacramento Toronto Phoenix Phoenix
    Minnesota L.A. Clippers Houston Charlotte
    New Jersey Milwaukee Memphis Indiana
    Washington Golden State Cleveland

    This method is problematic for several reasons. While it makes sense to give lottery preference to teams who do not make the playoffs over teams with a losing record that make the playoffs, it does not make sense to give them an extra pick ahead of a losing playoff team. As the standings are today, there is a possibility that Phoenix may have a better record than the 7th or 8th seed in the East. Should they really have 2 picks ahead of a team like Charlotte or Indiana.

    Also when do you give a player a free agent grade, before free agency or after the season? You are placing a stipulation on draft status based on a teams success during the following season so wouldn’t it make sense to stipulate a player’s grade on results during the same season? Elton Brand may have been an A going into free agency but after the season there is no way to justify a first round pick. Felton may have had a low grade going into free agency but based on Charlottes performance without him and the Knicks performance with him wouldn’t he have to be an A? And does that mean that Charlotte gets an extra first round pick?

    As far as competition goes do you think this really gives owners incentive to turn their team around. Instead of paying a high priced free agent, you let him go, cut salary for the rest of the team in trades, then march out over the summer to hype up your top 5 lottery pick and other high first round pick to season ticket holders and let the cycle repeat. Remember Bosh and Lebron left for a better shot to win but Amare left because the owner refused to pay him a competitive salary for a player of his status. In your scenario the team that gains the most over other teams is the team that probably got what it deserved

  3. petermcd88 - Jan 13, 2011 at 8:12 PM

    Most NBA players are not in a position to pick where they play as they are not good enough. The majority of major trades occur with sign and trades or trades with players on the last year of a contract. High end guys like Melo can dictate where they want to go in a trade in the last year of a deal because the reason he is being traded in the first place is because he will not sign an extension with his original team. Therefore to get the most in value he has to be traded to a team who he will sign an extension with. On the opposite end of the spectrum are guys like Big Z who are only desirable because they are in the final year of a large contract. They can be sent to any team, anywhere because the team they go to only wants him for the cap savings the next year.

    You have to have free agency so I don’t see how you can stop an elite player from going to a larger market in the same way you can’t stop any other person who excels in their profession from going to a larger city.

  4. petermcd88 - Jan 13, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    Despite your retarded, anti-semitic post, the fact that you mentioned baseball does bring up another interesting loophole. In baseball if you rent a player for a season and he leaves you still get a compensatory pick for that player even though he only spent half a season there. An owner or a shrewd GM from a horrible team that knows they can not make the playoffs makes a trade knowing a player would not resign. Not only do they not make the playoffs, but the team sheds payroll, gains a high first round pick and does so while having a star to fill the seats for the remainder of the season. Philly thought about trading Dre for Amare last season but did not want just an expiring contract for
    Andre. In your model they would have gotten a high draft pick as well.

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